Published By Ben Hillidge
Shetland. H.M. Yacht Conqueror II. 27 September 1916.
HM Yacht Conquerer II, was owned by the Duke of Manchester and hired to the Admiralty. The yacht was operating as a patrol vessel around Orkney, Shetland and Fair Isles and based at Scapa Flow, the huge natural harbour at Orkney and home to the RN Northern Fleet from where it could guard the Atlantic approaches and the North Sea. It was from Scapa Flow that the fleet sailed to the Battle of Jutland and where the German fleet surrendered in 1918 and was then scuttled by the crews – the German commander, Admiral von Reuter, and his staff would spend time at Oswestry PoW camp.
On 26 September 1916 HMS Conqueror II and HM Trawler Sarah Alice were ordered to investigate a merchant ship that was not displaying the correct recognition signals. The two patrol boats caught up with the steamer early on the morning of 27 September. They were north of Fair Isles about mid way to Sumburgh Head on the Shetland Isles. The steamer was the SS Gothard, an Admiralty supply ship with a cargo of coal. As Conqueror and Sarah Alice approached submarine U52 attacked. According to the U boat commander, Hans Walther, he fired first at the Conqueror but missed and hit the overlapping Sarah Alice which blew up and sank with no survivors. A second torpedo then hit Conquerer and she too went down – 15 of 34 crew were lost and their bodies not recovered. The survivors managed to scramble onto life rafts – Lieutenant Thomas R Davies was rescued from the water but died of wounds later. The survivors reported that two U boats surfaced and fired off Very lights which they reckoned were to attract rescue vessels to the scene as more potential targets. A short time later U52 sank the SS Gothard but with no loss of life.
GOOGLE MAPS centres on 59° 45’N, 1° 40’W – mid way between Fair Isle and Shetland – approximately wreck sites of Sarah Alice and HMY Conquerer.
References and Sources U Boat.net
B&O All years. Sea War. Scapa Flow. Shetland. H.M. Yacht “Conqueror II. 27 September 1916.